Key ( Fredericktown, Maryland, 1798). An Annotated Catalogue of the Contents with Notes on Authors and Sources

Author: Pitcher, Edward W. R.
This Maryland magazine published at Fredericktown by John D. Cary, appeared weekly for twenty-seven numbers, from 13 January through 14 July 1798. The intention was from the beginning to publish selections from various works of entertainment or of cultural value, supplemented by original articles from contributors. Each eight-page number is a blend of prose and verse pieces, with an admixture of brief items of practical value, snippets of news, announcements, etc. Reprinted articles were marked as such by opening and closing quotation symbols, but without mention of sources.

The author here, as the historian of magazines, has undertaken the necessary detective work to let one judge this periodical’s place among similar works. The annotated files disclose the heavy dependency of The Key on previously published material; The author allows that only in the “Observer” serial is there a case for originality, as some of those essays effectively use the idiomatic and colloquial manner of the best contemporary American essay serials (Noah Webster’s “Prompter,” Issac Story’s “Beri Hesdin,” David Everett’s “Common Sense in Dishabille,” John Chamberlain’s “Hermit,” et al.).

The file of published articles is arranged chronologically (by date of publication in The Key) within the Register, and annotations there are meant to assess the kinds of materials published, and as fully as possible to identify sources or routes of transmission (patterns of reprinting between first publication and use in The Key). Ephemeral advertisements, announcements, news items, etc., are noted briefly in the Register, but not indexed. All the literary prose and verse pieces have been filed alphabetically by title, and by initial wording. In an Appendix, Pitcher shows that The Key had a slavish dependence not just on one source, but on three years of a particular magazine, namely 1791, 1795-96, the third, seventh and eighth volumes of the Massachusetts Magazine (at least 120 articles were reprinted).

The annotated index for sources and authors allows one to determine at a glance the kinds of works used as source-texts, and the frequency of the editor’s use of each.

Table of Contents

Introductory Statement
Annotated Register of the Contents
Title and Initial-wording Index: Prose
Select Subject Index (Prose)
Title and First-line Index: Poetry
Index of Authors, Signatures, and Sources
Works Cited and Consulted